Melrose Quartet are now well-established on the British Folk Circuit, and have appeared multiple times at almost all the major folk festivals since forming in 2010. A strong bond exists between the band members, comprising two duos, Nancy Kerr and James Fagan and Jess and Richard Arrowsmith.
Known for strong a capella harmony singing, and equally strong instrumental work, Melrose Quartet bring the complete package to every performance and recording they make. “MAKE THE WORLD ANEW” is the first album that saw the band dedicate an unbroken week to fully immerse themselves in the studio.
Working with engineer Pete Ord, who coproduced the album with the band, they were lucky to have The Studio At Sunbeams in Cumbria for a week in the spring of 2023, and it proved incredibly conducive to the band’s creative process.
What eventuated is perhaps the most uplifting and positive record in the band’s career, reflecting their joy at being able to rehearse, record and gig together again after the trials and restrictions of the pandemic, but also a desire to look for ways we can all help one another in the current world crises of climate change, war, and hostility to those who need compassion the most.
The vibrant cover art by Melrose’s favourite, and to this date only, designer, Lizzy Doe, depicts a dancing scarecrow, a reference to one of the central pieces on the setlist – Jess’s homage to Lal Waterson’s own performance of Scarecrow. Jess learned her version from a demo Lal made in the recording of 1972’s Bright Phoebus, and Melrose Quartet’s arrangement is one of their most ambitious and memorable to date. The title track, Jess’s own poem “Make The World Anew”, set to the old Playford tune Mr Isaac’s Maggot, is a joyous homage to everyone behind the scenes in the music and dance scene, without whom the show could not go on.
Each member of the quartet brings their most personal set of repertoire to date to this release. Richard’s “Hedging Song”, learned from his father, showcases Richard’s strong background of playing for morris dancing, which he has done since he was 6 years old. His version of “Swaggering Boney”, as well as his rendition of Exeter Morris’s version of “The Hunt”, are probably the best Melrose Quartet recordings yet to convey the depth of dance experience and love of the style Richard brings to the ensemble.
Nancy continues her exploration of the writing of one of the UK’s most insightful and prolific songwriters, Leon Rosselson, (following her last solo record entirely devoted to Leon, ‘The Poor Shall Wear the Crown’) with the masterful “The Voice That Lives Inside You”. Her own song “Droving Dreams” is a rousing call for empathy for those who choose to migrate, or have no choice but to uproot their lives, and her other original contribution “Getting a Rise” is written from the compelling accounts of the miners who dug the Dartford Tunnel.
James leads the album opener with “The Monmouth Wassail”, and immediately the band’s a capella strength is on show. His version of “The Convict’s Lamentation”, learned from John Kirkpatrick, brings together James’s Australian heritage with his love of English traditional singing. The powerful melody is supported by a lovely string section that really shines a light on Pete Ord’s production and mixing. Tony Rose’s “Just as the Tide Was Flowing” continues the exploration of the late great singer’s repertoire that the quartet started with “Bampton Fair” on their debut album.
Nigel Homes, who plays bass with the quartet when they work as The Melrose Ceilidh Band, adds depth and energy to two sets tailor-made for dancing – the Swedish “Barsebäck” which goes into a Kerr original “Will to Dance” and then the classic “Gallopede” – and then a huge arrangement which encapsulates the band’s love of singing for ceilidh dancing, combining Nancy Clough’s with the Stan Rogers gem “The Mary Ellen Carter”. Two more original tune sets round out the album.
There is an undeniable sense of community, love, and the joy of social singing and dancing throughout ‘Make the World Anew’, and the band hopes that the energy it conveys can be both a comfort and a call to action for their listeners.
Catch them live on the rest of their tour – dates as follows:
Sun 8 Oct – Hartlepool Folk Festival
Sat 25 Nov – CEILIDH – Sheffield
Fri 1 Dec= Stapleford Granary, Cambs
Sat 2 Dec – Harrogate Folk Club
Sun 3 Dec – Hexham Queen’s Hall
Fri 15 Dec – Bradford Arms Folk Club, Newport
Sat 16 Dec CEILIDH – Southampton SHOCC
Sun 17 Dec – Southampton Turner Sims
Fri 22 Dec – Sheffield, Crookes
For further details please visit: melrosequartet.co.uk